Design Overdrive: 2014 Lincoln MKX Concept, exterior review

The covers are off, and Lincoln’s new MKX Concept is ready to accompany the brand’s China launch. As much as the arrival of Lincoln on the Chinese market has been anticipated in the past decade (and seen as a condition of the brand’s survival in the Great Automobile Maelstrom of 2009), the unveiling of a new Concept car at the Beijing Auto Show was sort of unexpected.

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True, the current Lincoln MKX is due for a replacement and the companion Ford Edge Concept was released last spring, but many anticipated the New York Auto Show to be the scene of the next chapter of the brand renewal. Still, the MKX Concept made quite a splash in Beijing and many reports have commended it for a dynamic styling, marking yet another step in the evolution of the brand identity first introduced on the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Concept.

It must be noted that, at this time, that the interior of the Concept has not been revealed. So today we will take a look at the exterior design of the MKX Concept and do a quick comparison with the current MKX and companion Edge Concept.

 Taking Flight

Ever since the first introduction of the new split-wing grille on the 2012 MKZ Concept, the brand’s designers have taken upon themselves to adjust the brand’s identity with each new concept or production vehicle, working on the outline and texture of both the grille openings and headlights. With the production version of the MKC luxury crossover, many journalists and critics have agreed that the design theme had matured and reached the level of sophistication required on a luxury vehicle.

With the MKX Concept, and in keeping with the nameplate’s function in the Lincoln line-up, designers have decided to put their theme into overdrive and explore their dynamic, sporty side. And it seems to have yielded great results!

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Up front, it seems to be familiar territory: a chromed split-wing grille frames a Lincoln star logo, flowing into and framing the headlights. But when you look more closely, you realize that while previous concepts and production cars showed off separate headlamp units connected to the grille through a shared motif, the MKX Concept’s headlamp units are integrated within the components of the grille.  As such, it’s no longer only the outside outline of the grille that frames the lights: each bar wraps around the main beams and turn signals, only to finally meet at the upper, outside corner of the lamp. Elements start out separate, and merge near the fenders, to blend into the car’s cohesive look.

Also, on the inner edge of this assembly, the chrome bars are no longer straight like they have been since 2012, they follow instead a dynamic kick upward that brings depth and movement to the grille: instead of figuring a bird of prey spreading out his wings, they now figure a bird of prey taking flight.

The tone set there reflects on the rest of the front fascia.  The lower air intake follows clean lines that wrap up around air ducts finished with a sport honeycomb plastic insert and a carbon fiber bezel. Meanwhile, a heavy chrome bar underlines the stance and width of the vehicle and a blacked-out center front lip spoiler reduces the visual height of the ensemble.

Cutting Through the Air

If you go around the vehicle and look at the sides, you’ll find the same subtle differentiation from the stately MKC. The overall, acclaimed, shape has been retained with strong character lines along the haunches, strong rear fenders and large wheel openings lightened by the use of dark body cladding. And yet, once again, if you look closely, you’ll see that the MKX is made for speed.

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First of all, the character lines differ from the MKC: there, they were of roughly equal length, and covered the outer thirds of the vehicle’s length. As such, it gave the MKC a strong, comfortable stance that could be associated with comfort and stability. On the MKX, the thin character lines that start at the outer edge of the headlights run all the way to the concealed rear doors, while the lines covering the rear fenders are much smaller and taller. That way, your eye is tricked into blending the proportions of a crossover or SUV vehicle with the proportions of a sports car: long hood, short deck. It gives the vehicle a stance that puts a lot more emphasis on the front of the car, the “going forward” part of it.

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This, along with chromed side skirts embedded into the body and shaped like a forward-canted spear, are styling cues usually found on specialty vehicles such as British or German luxury cars and utility vehicles. Indeed, it makes the MKX appear particularly sophisticated! At each corner, massive 7×2-spoke wheels wrap up the package. Again, while the wheels of the MKC had a solid spoke design, more traditional and stately, the split spoke design displayed on the MKX is an invitation to speed and active driving.

 A Strong Finish

Finally, out back, two distinct styling cues need discussing. Most obviously, the rear fascia completes an already aggressive package: first of all, there is the combination of a short overhang and a thinner, forward-canted D-pillar to respond to the forward stance of the vehicle that we discussed earlier. Unlike the MKC, which offered a more upright rear assembly, to favour interior space and cargo, you can tell that the MKX puts the emphasis on the journey rather than the destination. Slim, sharply designed tail lamps run deep into the rear fenders for a muscular look, and a full-width light bar reaffirms one of Lincoln’s signature cues.

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Above it, the Lincoln name is spelled out in chromed block letters, and framed by a thin chrome strip below and by a thick integrated spoiler above. Combined with a massive diffuser, generous integrated tail pipes and smaller recessed backlight, it becomes obvious that the MKX means business. Again, like a sports car, it seeks to leave a strong impression on the driver that just got overtaken by this golden bullet.

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To wrap up the design, Lincoln artists went as far as sculpting the panoramic roof into a instrument of character and presence: rather than using a traditional, rectangular section of glass, like on the MKC, they decided to work it into an impressive ramp that channels air into the large diffuser sitting atop the rear hatch. Again, that attention to detail brings the MKX up to the standards of performance vehicles, all classes considered.

Family Business

First of all, reviewers were quick to point out that the Lincoln MKX is very distinct from its companion Ford Edge Concept with which it shares its basic architecture. As Lincoln’s identity matures, it becomes more and more evident that designers manage to work their way around the engineering requirements such as hard points and dimensions like wheelbase and width. The Edge Concept, which goes for a rather gimmicky, youthful design shouldn’t be a danger to the Lincoln Concept’s sales as the latter stands in a class of its own in terms of sophistication, luxury and cachet. Actually, we came to the same conclusion when we reviewed the design of the MKC luxury crossover compared to its cousin the rather plebeian Ford Escape.

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It is also important to compare it to the model it will eventually replace. As it stands, the current MKX is a strong seller for the brand, especially since its 2011 redesign which finally brought an interior that went above and beyond the standards of this segment. The SUV’s squared-off shape also proved to be a good recipient of the previous “bow-wave” grille that had hindered the sales of the larger MKT crossover. Finally, it also offers a powerful 3.7 V6, when most competitors are switching to smaller engines or to a four-cylinder.

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We don’t have the dimensions of the MKX Concept yet, and its compact, sporty shape could make it look smaller than it actually is. Still, dimensions will be a key argument in building a dual identity within Lincoln’s SUV line-up: the MKC, in production guise, measures about 4.55m in length and 1.83m in width. The current MKX measures 4.73m in length and 1.93m in width. Generally, the sportier of the two is the smallest and the larger of too is oriented towards larger family and long-distance driving. It’ll be interesting to see if the next MKX slots in below or above the MKC in terms of size and price, and that could be a general indication of Lincoln’s long-term strategy.

Conclusion

All in all, it seems like the Lincoln MKX Concept is meant to be driven hard and fast. It marries the sophistication we already came to expect from recent Lincolns with a hefty dose of sportiness we could only dream of. With the very promising MKC luxury crossover waiting to go on sale in the coming weeks, a redesigned full-size Navigator presented in Detroit, it seems that the next MKX will bring something unique to the brand’s portfolio of sport and utility vehicles. It also makes us impatient for the next installment of Lincoln’s complete overhaul, which should start in the coming months with the reveal of a concept for the next MKS sedan.

Through this concept, Lincoln is, truly, taking flight!

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One response to “Design Overdrive: 2014 Lincoln MKX Concept, exterior review

  1. Pingback: The Original CUV: 2008 Lincoln MKT Concept | The Mark of Lincoln·

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